Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Mystery Ranch - 1Day Assault Pack

I put in just one request this Giftmas past, I saw on a Facebook group I am on (hey all you Secret Ranch folks!) one of the very limited, Singapore only release of a day pack from the inestimable Mystery Ranch. The good folks at Mystery Ranch, who have been putting together packs for Military, Fire and Rescue, Backpack Hunting and Mountaineering for 30 years, and I've been lusting after them.

I have a piece of Mystery Ranch kit already, the very cool Cinch Strap, which enables you to fit a pack over the top of a plate carriers shoulder straps and release it quickly as needed. That's the kind of forward thinking that they put into their products.

The Asia only release of this design is available through Hornest. It is very similar in design to the newly released ASAP Pack, and the more mature 3 Day Assault Pack.  This however is the Mystery Ranch 1 Day Assault Pack.

This 18.2L (1110 cu inch) pack features the iconic Mystery Ranch 3-way Y-zip which drew me to their packs in the first place, and weighs in at roughly 1.2kg (2lb 12oz) due in no small part to the tightly woven, water resistance treated 500d Cordura that makes up its walls. The bottoms of the pack is double layered and the inner layer is reported to be cut 1/2" smaller than the outer layer, placing the bulk of the load's weight on that inner layer, leaving the outer unstressed. Brilliant design.

The 1DAP is a smaller 3-zip pack with multiple pockets internally and externally. I have previously very much enjoyed the smaller packs I've used as my daily carry, with the much beloved Platatac Bullock Echo being the logical progression from my Crumpler Messenger Bag, and the MR 1DAP is a fitting successor to both of those, and my more recent every day carry bag, the rugged Propper Gen Multipurpose satchel bag. I wanted to be able to carry a bunch of my usual preparedness kit, without wanting to draw too much attention to myself, so I jumped at the chance for a "regular guy" black option, over my more usual khaki, this time.

The 1DAP features 3 rows of 3 channel PALS/MOLLE on both of the top sides, as twin 6 loop daisy-chain strips of loops running down the front of the pack. These are perfect for attaching lights, attaching carabiners, looping cord or what have you.

All the external facing zippers are reversed, and tape covered, to resist water and dust intrusion. The long stem of the Y of the zip extends from the very base of the pack all the way into three inches into body of the pack. The two arms of the Y zip all the way to the back of the pack, and each can be opened independently, to use as a flap lid for the top, a side entrance for just a hand, or opening all three, filleting the pack, for full access.

It offers several hydration configuration options, internally, there is a loop of cord at the very top of the inside of the pack for attaching a hydration bladder like the Source Storm WXP or the Platapus PIB, but more than just an attachment point, the 1DAP zippered access ports at the top corners of the pack (with some of my safety-orange paracord threaded through, to demonstrate here). Those zippers tuck well out of the way when not in use, shielded by the same reverse-cover design as the main body zippers, keeping rain and crud out.

The pale internal sleeve is made up of a backing, sewn into the top seam of the pack, and is open on the sides, with just two webbing anchors about 3/4 of the way down. This gives the internals of the pack some freedom of movement, without sacrificing stability. This allows larger items to be slipped under the front, cables and even additional hydration bladders to be fitted.

The internal sleeve also features a deep drawstring closure pocket, which can accommodate a variety of large items, like the 2L version of the Pathopak, which are 125x170mm, with ease. This is a great place to stow a hydration bladder, keeping its potential condensation off the rest of your kit, I also use it to secure larger items I don't want bouncing about the pack, or even my lunch. You could also use it as the base-cap of a longer item held secure by the drawstring, and projecting out of the top of the pack.

There are two mesh sided utility pockets with zippers against the bottom of the drawstring pocket of the sleeve, which are very useful as the rest of the packs internals are free from attachment points. Nowhere to attach pouches, which is a drawback, but the upside is that there is a lot of room to store larger items. The fact the internal sleeve is not fully attached also means you can shove it up, and out of the way, and place broader items at the base of the pack, and adjust for weight without crowding.

The top of the pack features a very clever, reverse opening and horseshoe shapes top pocket, as well as a broad patch of loop field, to attach patches and name tapes. Inside, a spacious main area, with a mesh-lining at the bottom allows storage of a variety of items. I keep a spare cap, and goggles, and a LazerBrite light in mine. The "top" of the lid features a zippered pocket, where I keep first aid kid, some gloves, a haemostat kit and the like. You may have noticed that at the tops and bottoms of each of the zipper runs, and lines of webbing, there is a loop, primarily for assisting a grip and unzip.

This is another example of the forward thinking put into the design of these bags. Another aspect, is the Futura Yoke system of shoulder straps and attachments, which allow for some really clever adjustment options.

The contoured padded components, with some built in webbing loops (you can see I've put a ITW GrimLOC on my left strap) and a pectoral strap, to secure the pack whilst you're on the bounce. These are nicely done, but pretty standard, there are tri-glide buckles with webbing feeding through from the back of the pack to the shoulder straps, and these play a really key role in adjusting the pack.

As well as the air-mesh backing of the pack, it has a built in semi-rigid packing behind that, which is how the pack manages its rather exciting transformation.

Fiberforge, a thermoplastics company Mystery Ranch has partnered with, builds their Framesheet Adjusters. These adjusters are a thermoplastic composite material created by fusing fiberglass with recycled softdrink bottles. The resulting material is apparently 60% lighter and 600% stiffer than steel, and 30% lighter than aluminium. This plate matches another one that sits inside the pack at the bottom, forming lizard like scales that give the pack a really good feel to wear. No jabs form hard-edged kit in the pack. It curves to match the natural inclines of the back, and sits nicely in the lumber region.

The back section of the pack can expand from around 40cm (16") to a whopping 60cm (22") because of the top of the back part of the pack is actually a loop backed insert,and a matching hook-field within the pack body itself. I had some trouble getting this quite right, as the broad sheets of hook and corresponding loop were only too happy to lock tight, but I managed to shoe-horn it into the best fit for me too.

This 40cm (16") part, which houses the Fiberforge insert, can be moved up and down, allowing the wearer to customise the placement of the pack, and by adjusting the webbing held by the tri-glide sliders on the shoulder straps, the perfect fit is easy to maintain.

This fits in with Mystery Ranch's resolve to solve the problem of packs not fitting properly over body armor because of the increase in relative torso size wearing armor creates. Being able to adjust the harnessing to account for this increase in size greatly enhances the stability and comfort of the pack when wearing armor.

Couple this with their Cinch Strap, and you have a pack system that will suit any body type, in or out of full kit.

I'm a chronic over-packer, so having a small capacity pack, with only two 3x3 PALS/MOLLE fields is part of my 12 step recovery process, but I like to think I am achieving my goals of remaining Equipped, without being someone who gets train services halted. I have put a few pouches on the outside of the pack, and I'm adjusting my load out in those, ad well as internally. One thing Ive noted is that even the "wings" where the shoulder straps meet the pack are padded, its a delight to wear as a result of these little thoughts, and whilst nothing from Mystery Ranch is cheep, they are made to be effective, and last.

I've found I really like the narrow silhouette of this design, being long and tall, it avoids the over-hang that other packs have given me, meaning I'm right and ready to duck and weave, getting in and out of where I need to go, be that in a busy laboratory, a crowded train, droid evasion in ventilation shafts or long forgotten command bunkers. 

1 comment:

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